Last week’s explosion at a propane company in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan reminded local residents of a fire that killed 12 people on the same street more than 50 years ago.
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“I obviously remember that fire, but only vaguely. We didn’t document the event much,” explains Laurier Dugas of the Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan Historical Society.
In the days following the blast, however, elders in the community of 5,400 spoke of the tragedy. The latter occurred 52 years earlier at Rang de la Rivière Nord, where 12 people burned to death.
6 children die
According to the Journal de Montréal archives, this tragedy actually happened on January 4, 1970.
“Reunited on the holidays, two families remain united in death,” the daily newspaper headlined at the time.
The fatal fire had occurred in a two-storey wooden house owned by Maurice Proulx. It was located at 61A rang de la Rivière Nord, about 3 km from the explosion that erupted at Propane Lafortune last Thursday.
Among the 12 victims, six children had died in that 1970 fire. It was a neighbor of the Proulx family who alerted authorities when he saw the flames while walking to Sunday mass around 7am.
“A few minutes after the alarm went off, the house was just a pile of hot ashes. The flames had already engulfed everything from the wooden house and the 12 people who were there overnight.
The photos published on this subject in Le Journal on January 5, 1970 send shivers down the spine. We also learn on these pages that the fire would have claimed a 13th victim, since one of the women who disappeared in the fire was pregnant.
Sébastien Marcil, mayor of Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, admits that he was unaware of the existence of this fire that took place in his town 50 years earlier.
“You teach me. It’s an unfortunate coincidence. The circumstances and coincidences are absolutely tragic. It’s breathtaking. It reminds us that these tragedies happen without warning,” he responds.
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